Friday, July 17, 2009

Be Back Soon!

For those of you who follow the blog, you have noticed that there haven't been any new posts as of late. It certainly is not for lack of stories as a lot has been happening and we are in the middle of Victor's "language explosion"!

Suffice it to say that we have had a crazy summer with a month in Spain and a move to NYC. We will be installing internet this weekend and I hope to start posting on a regular basis again very soon!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's the Thought that Counts...

The challenge of truly learning a foreign language is not the vocabulary, grammar, or even the fear of making a fool of yourself.  For me, the biggest challenge is taking the leap and really "feeling" the language.  

What do I mean by that?  Let me give you an example:

Last Thursday, a group of us went to Schenley Plaza to listen to Flamenco Music.  While Flamenco is generally more popular in the south of Spain in the Andalusian region, it really penetrates a lot of even popular culture throughout the country.

For example, when going to a nightclub, you can see people dancing and doing what I like to call la manzana, (the hand movements tend to look like you grab an apple, eat it, and then throw it away) or even clapping and stomping in time to flamenco rhythms.

I secretly hope one day that the Spanish culture will have penetrated so deep as to enable me to "feel" the music and participate without looking like a complete gringa.

The same goes for some of Spanish words.  I can now more or less hold my own when arguing (which took me several years to master), and I remember the first time that I said joder like a true Spaniard.  But certain words still elude me.  Even my attempts at using the simple "Ole!" has my husband rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter.

I am hoping that spending a month with the family in Spain this summer will help the boys begin the process of "living" the language and starting to absorb the culture and idiosyncrasies that I am either too old or too American to truly understand.  I am hoping that this vacation will be the start of them being perfect Spaniards and Americans.

It's Been a While...

I can't believe it's been 2 months since my last post!

As I'm sure you can imagine, having 2 little boys keeps me quite busy.  When you add on top of that a husband who is finishing up his MBA, planning a trip to Spain, and a move to NYC, I have not had much free time.

However, I have received several emails (and comments from friends!) that I should keep writing the blog and recording our adventures.  The truth is that this is a very exciting time for our family with a lot of changes and a lot to tell.

I am hoping to dabble a bit when I have the time this summer, and get back "full force" in the fall.  Please keep checking in, sending the emails and keeping me going with the blog!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mama dice....

As we enter into the 5th month of cold here in Pittsburgh, I am running out of ideas to entertain Victor at home.  Unfortunately for us, it has been a long, hard winter, what with a newborn and the entire family sharing illnesses for about 4 months straight.

Luckily, Papa has done a great job working with Victor on his body parts.  So far he knows:
  • la cabeza
  • la oreja
  • la nariz
  • la boca
  • la tripa (this is our favorite as he walks around grinning as he pats his belly with 2 hands!)
  • las manos
  • los pies
We've stayed away from los ojos since we're afraid he'll poke his little brother in the eye.

Next on the list are las piernas, los brazos, and el culo.

This morning, we played a fun game of Mama Dice.  I didn't want to confuse him (who is this Simon guy anyway, and why does he keep telling me what to do???) and since I love hearing him say "Mama", it was a win-win.  

While he is too young to know that he should point out his body parts only if Mama lo dijo, it was a lot of fun for both of us!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Talking up a storm!

Friday afternoon, we had our 18 month pedi appointment where the dreaded question was asked:

"Does your son speak at least 4 words?"

What?  All of that nervousness and he only needs to be speaking 4 measly words???  (he does:  bye-bye, suave (i.e. "don't hit the baby"), no, Eli (the pink elephant from Pocoyo), a-oos (adios), and various animal sounds).

Well, if that weren't enough, this weekend he added about 10 words to his vocabulary including silla, leche, agua, papa, and mama...even something that sounds a bit like "Ah-viz" (Oscar and I like to think that he is referring to his brother, David).

Por fin!!!!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cool CD giveaway!

The SpanglishBaby blog is giving a fun contest, ending tomorrow.  You can check it out here.

The habla blah blah CD is meant to be a tool for parents to sing along with their kids and help them learn Spanish.  There are fun songs about getting dressed, eating breakfast, and other every-day activities written by an educator mama.

What makes this CD really unique is that the singers have accents--American accents, that is.  Why would they do that?  To give us confidence to sing along, of course!

As my girlfriend Kathryn used to say, "Why do you worry about your accent when you speak Spanish?  Didn't you always want to get to know the cool foreign guy?  Well, now you're the cool foreign girl!"

This CD is your Kathryn--  Check it out!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Global Wonders Mexico, Interactive DVD

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I would review an interactive DVD produced by "Global Wonders" that explores Mexican culture. While I do try to limit my toddler´s TV time, I tend to let him watch a bit while I´m nursing the baby so I figured I would give it a try. Unfortunately, I think my 18 month old was a little young for the video.

Instead of giving up then and there, I decided to bring it along to one of his playdates, where one of the boys is 3.

This DVD is one of a series of cultural videos--Global Wonders also has interactive DVDs for African American, Indian, and Italian culture, among others. In this video, there are 3 main characters: Marisa (from Mexico) and her friends Trey and Brianna. As they have a playdate at Marisa´s house, they help the viewer learn about Mexican culture.

The characters are cute and lovable and the animation is very well done. I also enjoyed the "language jams" (where Spanish vocabulary was reviewed) and songs. Preschool age is definitely the appropriate audience. The video was a good length--about 30 minutes.

While I am not, of course, as familiar with Latin America as I am with Spain, I do feel that the video tried to take on a bit much. Topics included the big sister´s Quinceniera, Mexican food, holidays such as The Day of the Dead, leaders and famous people, music and dances such as the Rumba, and more. I felt that it was a lot for a small child to absorb. On the other hand, it would be a great tool to use as an introduction to Mexican culture, followed by detailed lessons on each of the topics.

All in all, I think it was a very well made DVD, a lot of fun to watch and sing along with, and I would be interested in taking a peek at a Spanish Culture DVD if they decide to create one!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ay! Que Pica!!!

The other evening we got together with another couple for a homemade Mexican dinner.  

I was super-excited as I have have not had good, authentic Mexican tacos since we moved to Pittsburgh from Atlanta!  I have had fish tacos a few times, and I never was a big fan, but these were fantastic.  Chuy told us that is was all in the combination of salsas--he is so right!

First, we had salmon tacos:

Small, corn tortillas were heated up and folded in half with soft cheese.  They used mozzarella, but any "queso blanco" will do.  

The salmon was cut into bite-sized pieces and fried in a little bit of olive oil, then stuffed in the taco.

Finally, it was topped with a sweet salsa called "Chipotle con Miel".  ricisimo!

Next, we tried the ceviche tacos:

I have always been intimidated by ceviche, and only order it in restaurants.  However, it was fantastic and seems pretty simple to make.

You take a mild, white fish (they used tilapia) and cut it into small, bite sized pieces.  Put the pieces into a raised dish and cover the pieces with lemon juice.  Leave it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, add chopped onion, garlic, and spices like freshly chopped cilantro.

Again, the trick was in how you put together the taco.

Here, we used a crispy round taco, topped with guacamole, then the ceviche, and finally a salsa cruda like pico del gallo.  mmmmmm!

After dinner, all was calm:  the adults were talking (the men sipping "Caballo de La Hacienda" tequila), the babies were sleeping and Victor was playing with their daughter Vale....or so we thought!

We looked up and Victor had somehow reached up to the table, grabbed the bowl of salsa picante and a spoon and was now downing it like a soup!  We noticed just as the jalepenos were taking affect....and the screaming began.  Poor little guy--he didn't want to be left out of the feast!  I just hope that his Mexican food experience will be better next time!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Will You Be Mine?

This weekend we got together with some friends for an American tradition: making Valentines Day cards for the grandparents. 

I wasn't sure how it would go (often I feel as if I'm tearing Victor away from such important things as investigating teeny tiny pieces of paper on the ground to do these "silly" crafts), but it was a success--two completed Valentines for his American Grandparents and Great-Grandmother.

If you're in the mood to make some home-made Valentines Day cards, here are some things that worked for us:

  • Office Supply Stores like Staples carry blank 3x5 and 5x7 note cards (remember the stuff you used to make flash cards for all of that foreign language vocab?) that work great for this and fit, folded in half, into a standard envelope.

  • Crayola makes washable "stamp markers" that have kisses and heart designs that are super easy for toddlers to manage.

  • Stickers are tons of fun and an easy way for little hands to make a cool design.

  • You can also cut little hearts and kisses out of construction paper and help your little one stick them to the card stock with a glue stick.

  • Get a washable ink pad or finger paint and make hand and / or feet prints to record this moment.

  • My friend bought an adorable stamp that read "handmade by:" and had the boys (okay, the mommies) "sign" underneath.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yippee! Victor's first (Spanish) Word!

Victor is obsessed with "bye bye".  He must say it 400 times a day.  Seriously.  

Well, yesterday the "bye bye" was replaced with a smiley "a-os".  To a mother's ears, this was a beautiful and perfect "adios"!


Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm Lovin' Rosa Leon!

My brother gave the boys "Canciones Infantiles" by Rosa Leon for Reyes this year.  Let me just say that it was an instant hit at our house!  

There are 24 traditional songs, and the lyrics are included for those of us who have to "study" in order to sing along. :)

My favorite song is about a little burro who is sick and sees a doctor.  The kiddos learn different body parts and inventive ways to make them stop hurting.  You can definitely see that Spain is not as "PC" as the US when the doctor advises una jarra de cerveza to cure an earache!

I highly recommend this CD for anyone who wants to learn some new Spanish songs for kids.  It's a refreshing change after sampling so many produced here in the US that are simply translations of American songs into Spanish!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I just posted this on my other blog, and thought this may be of interest to any readers here:

Savvy Source Blog for parents is hosting a giveaway for a Global Wonders DVD, which is a series created to teach preschoolers about other cultures. The contest ends January 19, so you still have time to enter.   

Click here to enter the contest!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is Spanish harder to learn than English?

I don't think fathers worry so much, but all of the mothers I talk to agree--the "well child" appointments with the pediatrician are as close to a report card as we get.  I have tried to be ambivalent and accept that my kids will develop on their own schedule, but as the date creeps closer and closer, the "cramming" begins.

Right now, we are working on talking.

My husband had a month of vacation time during the holidays, so we have effectively shifted to about a 90% Spanish household.  After all, with the cold weather here in Pittsburgh, we don't have as many outings, and those that we did have were with Spanish-speaking friends to celebrate Navidad.

But wouldn't you know it--the few words that Victor says are all in English?

Talking to the pediatrician last month, she was not concerned with his limited vocabulary as the few words that he does say (bye, bye; papa, no...) were two-syllable words -- a more complex skill than the typical "nose", "ear", etc.

So I set about trying to come up with a list of monosyllabic words to teach him in Spanish.  I came up with 6:  dos, tres, seis, si, no, pez.  We're in trouble!

My opinion is that Spanish may be more difficult to learn in the beginning, but Victor will catch up quickly.  He's starting to sing along with (American!) rhymes and songs and he's super-quick with signs that I teach him and takes direction well (okay, as well as a toddler does!).

It's just tough not to worry.  After all, it is my performance review we're talking about.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Must we choose between Santa and Los Reyes?

This year it didn't matter as the kids were so young, but in the future how will we decide which holiday traditions to follow--American or Spanish?

We're living in the US now, but what if we move back to Spain? Or what if we go to Spain for the holidays one year, but stay home the next?

And if we celebrate both traditions? But then why would our children be the only ones lucky enough to (for example) receive gifts from both Santa and Los Reyes Magos?

I love the idea of the Reyes Magos since Christmas and the Epiphany are religious holidays and the tradition of the Reyes Magos follows the bible story. However, our jolly Saint Nick and his team of hard-working elves have a special place in my heart.

My husband actually came up with a fantastic idea: there are soooo many children in the world that Santa and the Reyes Magos actually work together as a team. They split up the world and each have certain children in their lists. Cool, eh? Hubby is so smart!

Now, what happens when we are in the States for Christmas, but in Spain for Reyes????

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Holidays with kids is like starting over again:  the tradition, the excitement, the "holiday spirit" if you will.

This year, we were invited to participate in a Catalan Christmas tradition called "CagaTio".  Now I know "cagar" is "to poop" (okay, it's the not so polite way of saying "poop") and "tio" is "uncle" or slang for "dude".  So... poopy uncle?  poop, man?!  huh????

Flashback to about 7 years ago when I had my first Christmas in Spain.  I travelled to Valladolid to spend the holidays with my then-boyfriend, Oscar.  Like all good Spaniards, we spent Noche Buena visiting the various belenes (Nativity Scenes) and drinking champagne.  He told me to be on the lookout for the Caganet -- a figurine that is hidden in every belen.  The distinguishing characteristic?  It's squatting and pooping.  Turns out, it was not a joke.  Gotta love Spain.

Anyway, back to CagaTio.  Doing a little research, I learned that while "caga" did mean what I thought it did, "tio" did not.  Tio in Catalan actually means trunk (like of a tree).  So the CagaTio celebration actually revolves around a friendly tree trunk being fed and wrapped up in blankets during the afternoon, only to be provoked into pooping out gifts in the evening by children singing a song and hitting it with a stick.  I repeat, gotta love Spain!

Wikipedia has a great summary of the fiesta here including the lyrics to the song in Catalan and English.

We actually had a blast and I'm looking into getting our own CagaTio for the kiddos next year!

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm ba-ack!

For those of you that follow this blog, I apologize for leaving it without notice.  

My son David was born 10/28 and it has been a challenge to find any sort of free time to write.  He and his brother Victor keep my husband and I in a "zombie-like" state, and by the time they go to bed (okay, by the time VICTOR goes to bed!) and we have dinner, we're ready to hit the sack ourselves.

However, I'm excited to start blogging again in the new year, even if it's only a few times a week!